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Should voting be made compulsory?
Universal voting has been a hallmark of democracies for decades now. From a period when only landlords could vote, we’ve come a long way in extending the right to vote to everyone. While universal franchise has been a boon to the disenfranchised majority in ensuring political representation, facilitating upward socioeconomic mobility and shaping a more egalitarian society, let’s examine if compulsory voting is the next step forward in the path to utopia or just another dud in the long list of failed social experiments.
Although a clutch of countries have made voting mandatory, most countries do not compel their citizens to vote. A comparison of various development indicators between these two categories indicates no correlation between growth and compulsory voting. Further, the outcomes from compulsory voting could be simulated by a pattern of voting with proportional representation of the various electoral preferences. Thus, compulsory voting doesn’t seem to play a definite causal role in driving growth and even if it does, it isn’t the only way to ensure proportional representation of the polity’s electoral preferences.
What’s more, compulsory voting could actually be detrimental to a society’s interests, with regard to the huge opportunity costs associated with the exercise. From migrant day laborers losing wages and incurring travel costs to terminally ill people being forced to make painful trips to the polling booth, compulsory voting might feel dictatorial and coercive for vulnerable sections of the population.
While it is agreed that governments must promote voting as a way to ensure better representation of the polity and its aspirations in governance, it can be concluded that compulsory voting isn’t the way forward.
WAT Topic for 22nd Feb, Forenoon slot:
Demographic Dividend in India - A myth or reality?